Analysis of Semenya Case

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Updated: Aug 16, 2023
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This section will aim to discuss the information I have gathered from the analysis section. I analysed several different articles ranging from 2009 to 2011, where she was most discussed across numerous media platforms following her significant victory in Berlin. The newspaper articles I investigated were most prominent between August and September 2009, as this was where Semenya’s gender verification test came to light and the story was at the peak of its disrepute. Many of these articles were sport feature articles which primarily appeared on the sport section of their online pages, many of which were small articles.

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Each article had an underlying theme which the author discussed, these included race and gender. However, some had the underlying theme of cheating and bias within athletics. The most common factor seemed to be that of Semenya’s gender as they didn’t focus on Semenya’s race as such. It was also notable that most of the gender and race-based articles were opinion pieces. It became apparent that none of these articles made front page news, but the Daily Mail online sport section saw this story on its homepage more than other forms of broadcasting. An interesting finding was that none of the articles I studied quoted Semenya directly, the closest to Semenya being her family and friends. Semenya’s personal voice would’ve given another dimension to these articles as all of the studied sources spoke of issues affecting her without including any of her own opinions.

The articles which I analysed all took a different approach to the Semenya case. Across several media platforms I investigated few took the emotive stance towards broadcasting the sage, whereas others gave a chronological order of events and factual information only. This suggests that all methods of reporting were a combination of factual and sensitive reports. A recognisable fault in the analysis of these reports was that there were no sources with accompanying reliable statistics or graphs. Articles that were included in this bracket primarily reported from the position of cheating in athletics and discharged any accusations of sexism and racism in sport. Several articles also assumed that the reader had a basic understanding of the Semenya case and the gender debate concerning her before they read the article. All of my chosen sources spoke of gender as this was the debate at hand, with only two of my chosen articles mentioning ethnicity. Frequent mentions were those of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) as they were in control of the gender verification testing and controlled how and when information was released to the public. The IAAF played a key role in this saga as it was seen as controversial how the ins and outs of this case was released, with them claiming they released the information of Semenya’s testing after the media broadcasted it. They also came under fire in 2009 for their alleged athletic bias against women of colour, Semenya included. The voice of the IAAF was prominent in this saga due to their decision to go ahead with the testing, despite their comments often being disproved. Along with the voice of the IAAF, articles I examined often used the input of other specialists. Few featured professionals ranging from sport scientists to medical experts, all of which were allowed to have their say on the Semenya case in the given articles.

The thorough examination of the given articles found the leading theme of the Semenya case to be primarily focused on gender. It was frequently addressed throughout every article as the controversy was based on Semenya’s gender verification. I found that each article the Semenya saga was discussed in was in the sporting section of each broadcasting platform, with none of which featuring in the main section. The regular updates of the case throughout 2009 and 2010 suggested that within this time frame Semenya became recognised internationally due to the volume of exposure she received. The lack of viewpoints in favour of Semenya competing in women athletics indicated that her voice was frequently ignored. Large-scale broadcasting platforms showed that Semenya’s confidentiality was not considered as details were released to the public with no thought of her personal wellbeing. It was notable that Semenya’s competitors voices were favoured, where they described her ‘man-like’ physique. An example of this would also be the voicing of the IAAF and its representatives, who were described as overriding throughout the Semenya saga. Information from medical experts was also preferred. Recurring themes included cheating in athletics, and specifically gender. Sexism wasn’t an issue in the broadcast of the case, however the treatment of Semenya could be considered as sexist. The fact that Semenya smashed records by considerable margins gave the impression that if a woman was exceptionally good at what she does she would be considered a man, which is unjust in modern society.

The idea of a woman being exceptionally good at what she does to the point she is considered a man is unheard of outside of sport. Semenya was subject to this underlying concept of sexism by many medical and scientific professionals, but it was not as frequent as the references to gender. An example of Semenya’s gender being almost mocked would be the article in the Daily Mail by Wilson. In this article there is mention of an incident that happened to Semenya whereby her gender was questioned outside of sport as she wasn’t initially granted access to a female bathroom at a petrol station. The use of this example allowed the reader to picture how masculine she must appear to the average person, which was discussed before her emphatic victory in Berlin. Whilst Semenya’s sex was female, it was thoroughly discussed that she did not ‘act’ or seem feminine and it was therefore necessary for her to undergo a ‘gender’ authentication assessment. After setting a new world record, Semenya was subject to further humiliation from the world of athletics as her record-breaking time wasn’t published in the list of fastest women athletes of all time. The display of ‘manly’ power in sport is shown deceit, women that demonstrate anything like this would come under fire for being excessively masculine. In modern society there is a specific recognised issue regarding the extent of a woman’s power. Semenya achieved extraordinary heights at just eighteen years old, which only extended her international ‘freak’ label. Her display of exceptional technical skill, even though it was physically possible for a woman to accomplish these honours, was believed to be ‘too masculine’ and ‘abnormal’. When the concept of Semenya being ‘abnormal’ is discussed, there is no real consideration of her personal wellbeing. She identifies as a woman and has always been treated like one by her family and friends, why did the issue need a global discussion without her consent? The testing could’ve happened confidentially, and for the testing to become open to everyone is the reason that I believe Semenya was mistreated consistently by modern media. 

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Analysis of Semenya Case. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved from